My Next Mountain to Scale is “Writing (fiction) from the Heart”

As I approach my 66th year of life and the next stage of the journey, it is a time not only for renewed reflection, but for igniting new flames, burnishing dreams in progress, and stirring old embers. Sebastopol has become the home of my heart and it affords me opportunities to do all this. I have joined a group of local Israelis that we jokingly call, “Israelis Anonymous”. I am a member of a stimulating, creative writing group where I can channel my lifelong pleasure in writing by Writing from the Heart. I’ve joined a men’s group whose impressive members enjoy the pleasures of thoughtful discussion, as I do. I am, once again, exploring unfamiliar territory, engaging in new activities, interacting with new people, and, of course, finding and crossing new boundaries on the way.

With pen pressed delicately against paper
My stories flow
From my memory
A footprint in a faraway land
A portal to the past
A discovery for the future
A written word
A spoken truth
A page rustling with magic

“Israeli Anonymous” 😀 Community in Sebastopol

While continuing to manage the Zur Institute and its 150 online continuing education courses, I have also put down strong roots in my town, Sebastopol, where I am active in groups such as “Israelis Anonymous” 😀, Depth Psychology discussion group, Carl Jung’s discussion groups, a Hebrew book club, a writing group, and more. I have re-immersed myself in the practice of meditation, as well. Daily sitting-meditation seems to have a profound impact on my psyche, opening me to a deep appreciation of the “Now”; and thus, empowered, I strive to be present, as if each day (or each moment) were my last one on earth.

Like a tree whose roots are nourished by rich soil
I have planted myself firmly in Sebastopol, as a part of the Israeli Anonymous community 
My soul, soothed in silence
Meditating daily 
A practice to clear my mind
And let the stillness, the wonder of
Life flow through me

The Challenge, Excitement & Courage of ‘Beginning Again’

As I turned 66, one of the questions that naturally emerged was ‘how do I want to live my remaining years?’ Summiting mountains on foot or on a motorcycle, diving to extreme depths, fighting wars, jumping out of planes, teaching all over the world, backpacking on a glacier, authoring cutting-edge books, fighting irrational dogmas, implacably seeking justice and peace, were all achievements and enriching challenges of the past. Now the question is, What’s next? When I consider the possibilities, I can’t help but feel that surge of excitement that always precedes the new and unknown. I will intensify my meditations on a range of subjects, some old, some new. I will resume reading classic literature. I will write from the heart, for I still have so much to say. Perhaps I will travel to new parts of the world, visit new museums, libraries, or ancient sites, or. . .??? The ideas flood my mind as I go through the process of figuring out this new phase or how to begin again. Well, I do know that I am not going to take up golf. What is certain is that I will continue to nuture my close bonds with my precious family, friends and community, to engage in meaningful activities, and always promote peace and justice. While I know that life is going to move at a slower and more contemplative pace, I am yet not sure about its focus or form.

Beginning again
A match struck in the dark
A candle in the soul, reignited
A time for reflection, contemplation
A thirst for knowledge
A new day dawning
A life luminous with endless possibilities

Almost 70, Still ‘Twisting the Throttle’ as Evel Knievel

My 2019 trip to Israel had a different flavor than previous ones, as this time I traveled alone. This afforded me the chance to spend quality time with my sister, and to fulfill a yearning to revisit and re-experience the Negev desert via off-road motorcycle. My body and psyche clearly remembered the long and exciting days that I had spent as a young man navigating and exploring the dirt roads, creeks, springs, and craters of that awesome landscape. To start the adventure, my nephews Tal, Shay, Leor and young Ely had planned an exciting day along the steep slopes of Jerusalem, so that I could prepare for the desert ride. I rented a Yamaha WR250 dual-sport off-road motorcycle and headed with them to the Jerusalem hills. It turned out I was indeed in need of this ‘prep’ trip, as I flew off the bike at least half a dozen times, landing on my shoulders, my recently replaced knees, my back and, yes, even on my head (again). I ended up in ‘urgent care,’ where they put me on antibiotics via an IV drip. Miraculously, I sustained no broken bones and no damage to my ‘new’ knees, although who knows what it did to my head! A couple of days later the five of us headed south to our ‘real’ destination, the stunningly powerful Negev Desert, with three dirt bikes and a 4×4 pickup truck trailing us with food, water, tents, etc. The ride, the awesome landscape, the challenges, the comradery, and the conversations with these generous and capable young men was immensely gratifying.

It has been interesting for me to contemplate this adventure at this point in my life, now pushing 70.  “Twisting the throttle wide open” had a different feel to it this time. Now, death did not seem so remote or abstract. Looking it in the eyes I still felt a sense of calm, but gone was the former strain of defiance or romance. Stripped bare through the hard cast of age, death is simply an objectively possible outcome!

My friend Garry Cooper describes this part of my character as:

Roaring toward the precipice,
twisting the throttle wide open
to either soar over the abyss
or crash in a blaze of adrenaline and glory.

Sailing the Gorgeous Bahamas with Eitan as the Coronavirus panic-pandemic broke out

Mid-March 2020 was a perfect time to fly to the Bahamas for another long weekend of sailing with Eitan on a 40 ft catamaran, this time around the Bahamas Islands. It was an odd time on the planet, as the worries and concerns around coronavirus pandemic had not taken hold yet. Eitan got a few days off from his 1st mate position on a giant 130 ft. mega yacht that was docked at Nassau.

As we tend to do on such trips, we took our time sailing in the clear/shallow water all around the gorgeous Bahama islands while enjoying peaceful weather, great conversations, sweet long silent periods, and variety of colorful tropical fish and spring-time bird flocks.

Re-entering the world via flights to Florida and back home to California was like entering a war zone of Humanity vs. Coronavirus, or more accurately entering a brave new world where humans are forced to encounter the inevitable and most denied facts of life: Death (especially of old people) is part of life not necessary always to be feared, combated and avoided but also to be… celebrated.

Project Insights: Launching a New Community Platform to Share Personal Stories and Gain Life-Changing Insights

My new adventure as of mid 2020, Project Insights, is an online forum in which I invite you to reflect and share about an ‘Aha’ moment you have encountered along the way and to read about insightful experiences of others. By sharing, reading, and contemplating these meaningful moments in our lives, I hope to support the deepening of our personal and social reflective practices as well as to promote intercultural dialogue about the subtexts that impact our choices and help define our human experience. Engaging with this virtual community, I hope, will help you examine your life choices, cultural assumptions, belief systems and biases.

The first topic explored on Project Insights involves experiences with the Corona Virus:  If the Coronavirus could speak to you… what would it say? What would You say to it? What gift could Coronavirus offer you / the world? There are 12 different themes that are dear to my heart around which I will invite you to share your stories. These themes include: Regretting not doing the right thing; Looking at death straight in the eye; On being sane in an insane place. I hope you will join me.

Rethinking Coronavirus

My view of the coronavirus (in mid-2020) was met by strong, even aggressive, responses from friends and community members in the US and elsewhere. The reality surrounding Covid-19 clearly touched a nerve worldwide. The anthropologist in me has found people’s responses to the corona virus fascinating. On a personal level, however, I have found myself often quite isolated in my point of view. Sometimes even downright lonely.

It is intriguing to me that the whole world appears to have been relating to the coronavirus and the responses to it with such uniformity across cultures, languages and generations: the virus appearing as a threat, an invisible, deadly and ferocious invader that needs to be stopped through the use of vaccines, masks, social distancing, shelter-in-place etc.

One of the basic facts related to Covid 19 that to my amazement has not been prominently presented is that while generally speaking the coronavirus mostly kills medically vulnerable people, on the whole, it is deadly to medically frail elderly people. Modern day western culture holds a problematic attitude toward death and dying. It is perceived as a failure that should be avoided at all costs. Literally. Sadly, most old people in the US and other western nations die in hospitals or senior homes after the medical “industry” ferociously fought to prolong their life by all available means, without improving the quality of their life. And all this while profiting greatly.

As I traveled the world, I have been fascinated by the way in which indigenous cultures hold their elders with reverie for their wisdom, experience and guidance while at the same time they have various rituals that allow older people to die naturally, with dignity, in the comfort of their communities. This attitude is vital for the place the elderly take within the culture and is essential for the survival of the tribe.

I strongly believe that it is important for us to continue to respect and honor older people as we welcome their wisdom, guidance and leadership. I also believe that we should let the elderly who are highly frail, those who are intensely suffering and severely ill, die in peace and with dignity within their community. Hopefully, in the arms of their loved ones. It is time for us to grow up and accept death as part of life, as a transition to be honored and, yes, as a time to be celebrated!

Alone in my thinking 
Of death, seen as inevitable
Something occurring naturally, a part of
Life to accept

For each of us, death will come
And we must embrace our lives
While we can

And when dying,
be allowed to light candles of dignity,
and have peace,
like a white blanket, envelop us,
surrounded by the gentleness of our loved ones.

Flying High – Next Phase in Life

Selling the Zur Institute, Inc. after a quarter century of intense, challenging and highly rewarding engagement, opened up a huge psychic space and time for the ‘new’.  Then, launching Project Insights has been a creative challenge and exercise in the rare commodity of… patience.

I have been training for a potential dream-challenge of posting a stake in the South Pole as well as hike, kayak, camp there and hang out with the penguins for my 70th birthday.  Obviously, with the current (mid 2020) COVID-19 hysteria it is hard to know when this plan will materialize.

Exploring boundaries has taken another dimension for me these days.  This time, it is to the limitless  expanse  of the heavens and the incredible, awe inspiring view from far-above.   I started taking pilot lessons as I am exploring getting a pilot license to fly small planes high and to exotic faraway places.  Hard to know where it may lead.

To gaze upwards towards the heavens
From far below
To view an endless sky 
Horizons painted in swatches of pink and orange
My soul charts a new journey 
Hovering about the earth in a plane
A pilot set to soar above the clouds

Sailing at the Sea of Cortez & Spending time at the Yucatan in the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis

In Sept. 2021 Jennifer and I joined Eitan and his friend, Amanda, for a fantastic sailing week on a 46ft catamaran on the Sea of Cortez (Mexico). It was a wonderful break from a tormented and hostile divided world around the complex coronavirus related issues of life-death-health-fear-trust-responsibility and much more. Sailing, swimming, snorkeling and some hikes in the powerful-arid-rocky landscape cleared my heads and refreshed my spirit as I was looking for ways to find meaning and joy in a tormented world.

In December of 2021 we ‘needed’ to get out of town again and after a lovely Chanukah party we headed, this time, to the east side of Mexico, the Yucatan, with our 2 boys and Amanda. It was a lovely experience to hang out at the resort town Playa Del Carmen, and on the gorgeous island of Isla Mujeres and visit the amazing Chichen Itza Ruins during Christmas time.  Unlike many parts of the world tormented by COVID-19, the Yucatan was friendly, vibrant, musical, colorful, hospitable and truly celebratory.

My Professional Life in Post ZI Era: Teaching & Forensic

2020 and 2021 years were distinct as they were the beginning of a new ‘Post Zur Institute’ (ZI) era (sale went through in Ap./2020) and a divided world struggling to comprehend and attend to the coronavirus threat.  Free of ZI, I turned my professional focus to teaching ethics and consulting & expert witness forensic work

I quickly and gradually more joyously, adjusted to the new ‘coved-19 reality’ and have been intensely teaching remotely via zoom.  Teaching from my study at home (with running shorts and flip flops) was odd and freeing at the same time.  I recall the moment when I cracked a joke in a live zoom webinar but had NO idea if any of the 600+ attendees laughed or grimaced.  My two main focuses of teaching ethics at these times have been a. Debunking myths and commonly held beliefs in psychotherapy and b20+ ways to avoid being sanctioned or disciplined by mental health licensing boards.

My consulting & expert witness work has also flourished in the post ZI era.  I have asked to provide expert opinions on highly complex, interesting and intriguing psychotherapy licensing boards and civil lawsuits cases in several states across the US.  A couple of ethicists and attorneys have referred to the cases they retained me as an expert as “Even Dr. Zur”😋 reflecting on the informed-importance I place on context in standard of care matters rather than on “risk-management.” In June 2021 I had the honor of receiving an authorization from the Minnesota Supreme Court to prepare an amicus brief regarding the standard of care for psychotherapy and counseling.

Exciting Off-Road Motorcycles trip in the Desert (2022)

I went on a challenging and equally exciting adventure in the Negev Desert on 250cc off-road motorcycles, with my 3 nephews: Tal, Leor,  Shai and Tal’s Son, Ben (16). I was determined to enjoy the awesome (challenging) beauty of the dessert, its rough terrains, and the (unavoidable) falls off the bike, and keep away from the hospital, where I ended up in my last motorcycles adventure 2 years prior.  We embarked on our trip in Mitzpe Ramon and made our way in the Israeli “Grand Canyon” where we spent 4 days in awsome, challenging and varied terrains, meandering up hills and steep river banks made of rocky and sandy surfaces.  Inevitably, I did take some hard falls off the bike but luckily did not break any bones or infect my body with bacteria as I did last time. The journey indeed felt epic.

Climbing up a staircase of stones on a motorcycle I took in majestic sights, surrounded by the desert in its glorious mixture of silence and story hidden below the pedals I pressed.

Challenging Encounter with Fear, Mastery and . . . PIRANHAS on the Amazon River

In 2022 at 72 years old, I have decided to confront fear, challenge, and adventure by going to Brazil and spend time in gorgeous, adventurous Rio de Janeiro, on the magnificent enormous Amazon River and encounter unique personal challenge with the legendary dangerous awesome Piranhas.

I travelled in this 3 weeks adventure with my beloved nephew, Tal (52) and a young friend Jenn Gaskell (32) a Scottish doctorate-mathematician, and ultra marathon runner.

A short video of our delightful time in Rio, Santarem and the gorgeous Amazon

Rio
The city that never sleeps
Majestic, draped in a rainbow of colors
The heartbeat of life
The soul of Brazil

Rio

Rio

A short video of my amazing encounter with the awesome piranhas and the rational for this rather ‘crazy adventure’

Piranha’s song for my 73rd birthday

Piranha
Our first encounter
Your sharp famous teeth
a reminder of your legendary power
My eagerness to engage

Therapeutic Ethics in the Movies

In 2022, I rekindled my passion for presenting ethical issues with the aid of clips from popular movies and TV series.  It turned out to be very effective, popular, educational, and, yes, a truly fun way to discuss complex therapeutic ethical, standard of care and boundary considerations.  I developed a continuously growing web site that presents 17 ethical aspects Psychotherapy & Psychotherapeutic Ethics in Popular Movies & TV series where people (you) can (still) contribute their movies ideas and suggestions.

At the same time, I have also developed keynote presentations and courses on Therapeutic Ethics in the Movies that I presented in person, online, in the US and . . . in Israel. They all include dozens of short movies’ and TV series’ vignettes offering looks at a variety of ethical complexities in psychotherapy and counseling.

Riding in the Negev Desert and Visiting Petra Jordan

Family Bonds across Borders: the Negev Desert, Israel & Petra, Jordan, 2023

Dangerously steep rocky cliffs brought us together: my 2 sons, my 3 nephews, and I, rode our motorcycles off-road in the Israeli Negev Desert, to find much more than a wild, majestic landscape. It was amazing to experience the 6 of us getting along seamlessly, helping each other master the raggedy difficult terrain challenges, and share both joys and responsibilities required by riding an inhospitable, dangerous, rough surface.

This fulfilled a long lasting dream I held together with so many of my generation growing up in Israel. Finally, at age 72, I explored the vast miraculous Wadi Ram and magical Petra. The reality of these monumental sites was far more fascinating than my visions were. It was mind boggling to stand among these striking structures, formed by nature over 200,000 years ago, to meander through such magnificent temples, hand-carved in the 4th century BC, and to share it all with the next generation of men in my blood line.  Petra was a big part of ‘hero mythology’ and such a dream for us as a youth in Israel, symbolized by the (historically banned)  HaSela Ha’Adom song by Rika Zarai (another version by Arik Lavi) Lyric: EnglishHebrew.

Honoring the Transition – Come and Join Me in a Goodbye Celebration

You are invited to join me in celebrating my transition. I’d rather not have any crying or bemoaning what a perfect saint I am. Instead, we’ll sing songs, read poetry, play music, dance, speak from the heart, and much more…

I love my life, how I have lived, the choices I’ve made, even my conscious choice of words I used and phrases I refused to use—admittedly with very little regard to what many of you thought, felt or considered inappropriate, impolite, uncivil, or worse…!

For the most part I have lived my life as if every day is or may be my last day on earth. I’ve had numerous encounters with death throughout my life, most by choice and others by circumstance.  I never considered death a failure. My mother had a hand in teaching me that. A phrase she repeatedly told us was, “Trees die erect.” It summed up how she lived so perfectly that we had it etched on her gravestone.

I have a deep appreciation for your tolerance of me, even when you thought me offensive, insensitive, controlling, inconsiderate, full of myself or simply dumb. None of you slapped me when I stupidly declared, more than once, “Even when I am wrong, I am right.”

When I upset you, as I’m sure I often did, in my mind it was about ‘doing good’ or having, what Ilan repeatedly called ‘a teaching moment.’ Admittedly, even this gathering is a ‘teaching moment.’ 

So let’s celebrate, rejoice, and have fun – 

Ofer

You are invited to, privately, share your reaction/s to this ‘Invitation’ here.

Hi: I am not sure when my goodbye party will take place, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years or… Here is my ready to go invitation.  Your feedback or thoughts on the invitation is welcomed.

July/2023

OZ

An Eskimoe’s tale describes that when the elderly can no longer contribute to the village they are put out on the ice so the polar bears eat them and the young villagers hunt the bear and survive. In our modern world, where 50% of the medical costs accrue in the last couple of years of elderly life, the elderly eat the bear.

An Israeli Palestinian Solution is possible. 2023-2024

By an Israeli lieutenant & paratrooper who served in Gaza & left Israel for moral reasons

 

Competing historical ‘claims’ of who was first, Moses or Allah or who owns what, Muslims or Jews or who is ‘holier” should NOT be part of the current ‘cease fire’ negotiation. Israel gets its 1948 territory and the Palestinians get the entire West Bank (settlers are out) and Gaza (Hamas and all).

The biggest challenge and the real question for what is happening in the Middle East, Gaza and Israel these days, Oct. 2023 is to acknowledge the deep hatred on both sides and how to live next to each other, reluctantly accepting co-existence with each other.

I am Ofer Zur, a psychologist, an enmity and war expert, and a former lieutenant and paratrooper in the Israeli army who was wounded in the 1973 war.  I was born in Israel in 1950, and during my military service, was stationed in a refugee camp in Gaza back in 1970.  This experience led me to the conviction that I had to leave Israel, which I did. (See: I Was Her, Out-Of-Body Experience, On Leaving Israel).

I am watching with horror and deep sadness what is happening in Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7, 2023. Israel bombing Gaza and killing thousands of civilians (post 10/7/2023) does NOT eradicate Hamas, it gives it much MORE strength and popularity.

Knowing the region and the complexities of its people, I am proposing a solution for the situation. The main challenge for Israelis and Palestinians is, how to live or have a ceasefire with an enemy who wants to destroy you.

Here are my views and a long-term peace proposal for the region:

  1. Israel does NOT have a vote about whether, or not the Palestinians, including Hamas want to destroy it. The biggest challenge for Israelies would be how to live next to a hostile country bent on their destruction.
  2. Israelis should and must give the Palestinians their own state. No more occupation!!!!! No more hateful settlers!!! Unarmed-peaceful-respectful settlers can stay in the West Bank ONLY if they surrender and accept the Palestinian rule and full control of the West Bank, i.e. Palestine.
  3. A Palestinian state will include the West Bank and Gaza. They will be connected via tunnel, bridge or train – by appropriate means, satisfactory to both sides. The main reason for this is simply self-preservation for Israel. “Occupation destroys the occupier.” Gaza will have its own sea-port and both, West Bank and Gaza will have their own international airports. Some optimistically, but not very realistically, suggest, that in exchange to giving the Palestinians their own state, they will de-militarized both Gaza and West Bank.
  4. Israel with its superb military capacities CAN protect itself if it chooses to, (not make it ridiculously easy, as it did on Oct. 7, 2023).
  5. The hope is that in 2-3 generations (Yes, 2-3 generations, not 2-3 weeks or 2-3 months or even years), the situation will de-escalate, Israel will be forgiven, and incentive on both sides, for cooperation will have developed.
  6. Not much different that the Protestant and Cathelic in Ireland 1968 to 1998  30 years conflict. And hopefully similarly to how one of the worst conflict in human history between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda where nearly one million, primarily Tutsi were killed was peacefully resolved. If Israel fully give the West Bank to the Palestinians it is likely to be a similar to the current situation between India and Pakistan that arose out of the 1947 partition of British India, which established a Muslim-majority Pakistan and a Hindu-majority India. They currently co-exist with tension and highly militarized border. Although both countries have maintained a fragile cease-fire since 2003, they regularly exchange fire across the contested border. Both sides accuse the other of violating the cease-fire and claim to be shooting in response to attacks. Fences make good neighbors! Israel may end up with friendly relationship with Palestine they way Israel has very friendly relationships with Jordan and Israel or may be more similar to the India and Pakistan tense but rather stable relationships. Either way is much better and more fair and more just of the current 1967-2023 situation.

The big-picture view and perspective:

Getting the 500,000+ religious settlers out of the West Bank is not easy but definitely doable because: They have no economic base – $ comes from outside. They have light weapons but are not highly trained in using them. They cannot really fend for themselves. They rely on the Israeli army to keep the highly guarded exclusive roads to Israel open. So it is doable to force them out from the West Bank (AKA, Palestine).

In the same way that Israel lives with its enemy relationships in the north, Lebanon and Syria, so will it learn to live with a hostile Palestine.

They bomb Israel, Israel bombs back. Then, in a couple of generations there will be peace, similar to Israel’s current peaceful relationships with Jordan, Egypt and… growing peace with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

I am hopeful…

Exciting Fiji Adventure with my Son in 2023/2024

Toward the end of 2023, my son, Eitan invited me to sail, hike, ATV, and explore magical caves, gorgeous water-falls and beautiful trails with him in Fiji, where he sailed his monohull sailboat across the challenging stormy Pacific from the US a year earlier.

It was hurricane season in Fiji and most boats were out of the water, few tourists were around, and there was plenty of humidity, beauty, heat, calmness and rain. Skies intermittently cleared enough, however, making way for dynamic and beautiful displays of the sun dipping below the horizon, and warm, breezy moonlit sky views.

In the heart of Fiji’s azure waters, my son, seasoned sailor and I, somewhat experienced (old) sailor, used downtime to prepare his vessel before he embarked on his next picturesque adventurous voyage west to… Navigating the vibrant volcanic reefs, we shared the calm of our cherished bond amidst the gentle lapping of reflective waves.

Fiji, on a sailboat
With my son
Feeling serene and loved,
The whole world made right by wonder

Azzia’s Monthly-Ritual-Visit to Sebastopol

Azzia (40) has been spending a one Shabbat (Saturday) monthly for years at Sebastopol, CA coming from her 1 hr. away home at Berkeley.   It is a nice, heart-warming ritual that helps us stay lovingly connected as well as informed of each other’s lives in our ‘walk & talk’ tradition and lunch with Jenji.

Azzia is ‘doing good’ (Zur’s dictatorial term) works in sales at SCS Global Services, an environmental standard holding company. She is also promoting to fifth degree black belt at Aiki Arts Center in Berkeley this spring.

Going for ‘Walks & Talks’ above our property on our Saturdays …. Updating each other of our lives and reminiscing on the single-father years when she was 4 and her and I moved to peaceful beautiful town of Sonoma for her to attend kindergarten.

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